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Guest Post: Diabetic Parenting.

About a month before my daughter was born, my friend Elizabeth became a mom.  Her baby girl joined her family through the miracle of adoption, instead of the c-section that brought BSparl roaring into our family, and both Elizabeth and I share the experience of first-time motherhood and type 1 diabetes. 

Her post, which I have the privilege of posting here on SUM today, echoes many of my own fears and thoughts.  I've had a few lows while watching BSparl, and the combination of panic, guilt, pride, and love is intensity defined.  Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your story here.

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It was a bad one.
And of course I’ve had the bad ones before, plenty of times. Where you’re working so hard or playing so hard (or worst of all, sleeping so hard) that you don’t realize what’s happening with your body until figuring out the series of muscles you’d need to walk feels as complex as solving differential equations, while drunk. Course I’ve had the bad ones before and it’s annoying, sure, and somewhat scary but no big deal. Except that this time it happened while my daughter was screaming.
I need to ingrain this in my brain, like that canned airline speech about what to do when your oxygen mask drops. My oxygen mask had conked me square in the nose, but my instinct, of course, was to save my child first.
The back story is that Anna has a hard time pooping, something called dyschezia where she gets all confused and tenses up. (I know, right? Who knew some babies actually have to learn how? This is not one of those things the baby books tell you, perhaps to keep you from gouging out your eyes in despair over what’s to come. Imagine this, a prolonged high-pitched screaming and me cheering, You can do it, push, push, push!  It’s like Anna is giving birth to a poop.)
The only thing that helps somewhat is to pull her knees up to her chest (as one would if she were giving birth to an actual baby), to help her relax. Drop her knees and the screaming escalates. So there I was last week, standing over the changing table with my hands on Anna’s knees, Anna sobbing, me sobbing and not wanting to let go. Until I didn’t have a choice. It was chomp down glucose tabs or pass out, so…and thank God I had the presence of mind not to try and lift Anna from the table … I dropped her legs, and tried not to hear the screaming as I raced to the kitchen.
It was awful.
And when I became lucid enough to think through what had happened, it became even more awful. Anna’s only five weeks old now, so she’s not in danger of rolling herself off the changing table, but what happens in three months when I can’t leave her alone? Or what if I’m carrying her or walking her down a busy street in her stroller, and I go hypo without realizing how low I am? And then there’s a whole other set of worries, not as immediate but just as profound…Namely, what will my diabetes do to Anna in the long run?

I’m sure all d-parents think this through before deciding to raise a child, and I wonder how they manage to come to terms with and accept it. Because my daughter will inevitably go through things no child should have to experience. There will be times when she isn’t the center of attention, and whacky-bg times I won’t have the energy to chase her in circles. She’ll be one of those children who, at the age of 3, knows how and when to dial 911, and as she gets older, experience will make her worry about me, doing that thing my husband does where he tries to gauge my sugar through the pace of my conversation. She’ll get used to the sight of blood. She’ll have to learn restraint, that some of the candy in the house is just for me. She’ll very likely see me with extremely low bg, nonresponsive or confused, acting in a way that scares her. She’ll likely see me go through various complications throughout our lives. She’ll likely lose her mom at a younger age than she would have otherwise.
Before my husband and I first signed up to adopt, I thought a lot about the weight the child of a diabetic parent might carry. I’m sure the d-parents who actually conceive a child have the same thoughts, along with others that’re even more terrifying (see: everything Kerri went through over the past 10 months.) But I probably looked at the issue even more closely, because this child’s existence didn’t depend on us creating her. I knew we’d be amazing parents, but I also knew that for every child available for adoption, there are tens of other amazing parents who want them, most of whom don’t have a chronic illness. (And okay, those of you who know me are now thinking you need to comment, saying she’s lucky to have us⎯You’re sweet, but that’s not going to help. I know we’re lucky to have each other, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’ll necessarily need to make sacrifices. And now that I actually know our daughter, and love her with all my heart, thinking about those sacrifices hurts like hell.)
Oh lordie, this post has gotten too melodramatic and woe-is-us-ish, sorry. Listen, I’ve also thought about the good things that’ll come from having a diabetic mom…And there are good things, or at least good sides to the bad things. Anna will hopefully learn to care how others are feeling, sooner than she would have without me. She’ll have empathy and patience. She’ll learn not to take health for granted. And, you know, learning how to dial 911 is a useful skill for anyone. But the idea of my diabetes ever, ever being a burden for my child is pretty heartrending. Add to this the very real fact that I have much less time to test and log and weigh food and remember how long I need to extend a bolus when eating oatmeal, and I’m just scared the whole family will topple down the huge mountain diabetic parenting can be.

And yet many hundreds of thousands of people do it every day, and do it really well. They probably have to learn as they go, which I guess is what I’m doing now. (My first lesson was to have a constant stash of Dex 4s in my pockets so I can eat without leaving her side. Should’ve thought of this sooner, I’m a slow learner, but I do tend to get there eventually.)
What else have I learned from these five weeks of experience? I have a checklist now on my refrigerator, with items to pack with me before I leave the house. Now that I have to remember what to stock in Anna’s diaper bag, it’s easy to forget my diabetes supplies. I’ve learned that lack of sleep and an inconsistent eating schedule will completely skew my insulin needs, and I’ve learned how to test and bolus while supporting a bottle with my chin. I’ve learned that dancing a baby around the living room requires a decrease in basal rate, and that a buzzing CGMS in one’s pocket, while dancing said baby, makes her squeal in surprise.
And over all of this I’m learning something that I’m sure Kerri is learning now too, that the many challenges of diabetic parenting are completely and totally overshadowed by the pure joy of it.

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You can read Elizabeth's blog, or check out her fantastic books on her website.  Thank you again, Elizabeth!


So great to see you here, Elizabeth! This is a wonderful post and one I can identify with my own thoughts about becoming a mother some day. Thank you for sharing!

Wonderful post Elizabeth! Thank you for sharing these thoughts!

I love the way you write, Elizabeth! Your blog is bookmarked :)

Thanks for sharing!

An absolutely beautiful post that brought me to tears, Elizabeth you have put into words the fears that I face when thinking about having a child of my own; and in a way I am glad that I'm not the only one who worries like that.

Again, beautiful post - and now I need to go and get some tissues!!!

Beautifully written. Being the mother of a daughter with diabetes you have touched on many of my fears for her future. I am sure over time you can provide people with lots of tips to help keep themselves and their baby safe.
I read this as the mother of a D child, but as a teacher as well. Unfortunaltey in our society there are many healthy parents that don't give their children what they need, time and attention. Don't sell yourself short because you have D. You sound like a person ready to nurture and love your little girl and I bet you will provide her with much more than many children out there ever recieve. I wish more of the kids I have seen through twelve years of teaching came from homes where they were the priority, which very obviously is the case with your family. Enjoy your little angel.

Great post Elizabeth. I think of you often and am so happy to hear your stories of motherhood. Thanks for sharing this valuable perspective. I know it will mean a lot to many.

I think about this all the time, and I don't have kids. A few years ago, my husband and I went to visit friends in Greece. The wife had Type 1, a pump, and an 8-month-old. I asked her about this very issue, and she told me that it becomes automatic after a while. I hope it does for all of us!

Thanks for sharing!

Thanks, all for your wonderful comments. You're all so sweet. I think the point I was trying to make is that it's difficult, but definitely do-able!

By the way, somebody just told me my blog is temporarily down. (Too much traffic? No idea...) Should be back soon, though.

Thanks again so much for your comments!

Many parents (adoptive or birthing) start out healthy, only to have that change over time. MS, lupus, cancer, a disabling accident--anything can happen. Some parents die before their time. I don't think there is anything to be ashamed about for choosing to parent as a diabetic.

I really enjoyed this post. My mom is a type one diabetic and I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a few memories from my childhood of bad lows that stuck with me. But these only come to mind when I think specifically of my mom’s disease, not my mom. Her diabetes and the way she handles the struggles that come along with it, only reveal her strength to me. And I think one of the most important things for a little girl to know (and eventually learn) is how strong her mother is.

I was just wondering about these types of situation as I got ready for work this morning.

How will I handle it when the baby is screaming and my BG is plummeting?

My first thought was to ask my mom, who is also a type 1 diabetic and has been since she was 12 years old.

I've not had a chance yet, but I do now that, as a child, I never felt scared or unappreciated when she was testing, or treating, or taking a shot.

As Kerri often says, it was just our "normal."

I hope that some day my son will be able to look back and say the same thing about his childhood.

I loved this!

I am a Type 1, pregnant with my 2nd child.. and I think that moms are pre-disposed to feel guilty.. all the time, we feel guilty when we spend time on ourselves, guilty when we spend money on ourselves, guilty when we think about how Diabetes will affect everyone around us... and the truth is, no matter what, most people something they are going through... either a disease like Diabetes or cancer, or depression and I find its easier to manage the guilt if I tell myself that I am teaching my kids that they can do ANYTHING, in spite of whatever they are going through.. don't let anyone on or anything stop you from being the person you were meant to be (and show that Diabetes who's boss!)
Your daughter is going to look back on her life and realize how amazing you are for juggling motherhood AND Diabetes!

Great guest post Elizabeth! Thank you so much!

One of my biggest fears is to have a debilitating low BG while I'm caring for my kids and it's just us three out somewhere.

Gosh, I normally don't make many comments but this post really touched me. My son has been diabetic since he was almost two. He is six now. For now it seems like it is "our" disease....you know something we deal with together. And while it sucks beyond belief sometimes, we are still a team. At one point in his life it will be all him. Alone. With this disease sucking the wind out of his sails some days. And more than anything that is what breaks my heart. I've gone a while without thinking about it...just doing it. But something about this post really made me feel it again. Good writing.

I'm just getting caught up in reading posts. This is a great blog! I've had the scariest low of my life last Sunday while out shopping with my 14 month old son. It was aweful! I was looking for something on a shelf, and my focus was all out of whack.. I popped 4 Dex tabs and kept going... I still couldn't focus and I just wanted to lie down before I fell down! All the while DS (dear son) was trying to bite my hand (probably a good thing... it kept me focused!) I went to the checkout to look for something to drink. something with an insane amount of sugar! I could hardly focus on that. Finally I found some lemonade and took a giant swig. then I thought... I have to pay for this!! It was a stubborn low. Probably because I had just eaten lunch and the dex & lemonade had to go through that first!!

Anyway... thanks for letting me get that off my chest! My neice, who is 4 now, calls my bottle of Dex 'Jenn's medicine' ever since she could talk! If only she knew it was grape flavored.... she'd be all over that! :)

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